Spring Cleaning: Clearing out your idea closet

Beth Conny of Write Directions on how to choose the best idea for your book or other writing project.If you’re like most writers, you have dozens of ideas for books, articles, plays, etc. Although you’ve yet to act on them, you swear you will one day. Meanwhile, you add to the pile on a daily and weekly basis. The result: a cluttered mental closet. What a mess!

Isn’t it time you did some spring cleaning? Here’s an exercise to guide you through the process.

1. Make an inventory of what’s in your closet.

Put each piece of clothing (writing idea) on its own hanger (index card). Next, sort through the stack of cards and divide them into two piles: the Possibilities and the No-ways.

The No-ways are the fashion equivalent of the topless bikini: a great idea—for someone else. Attractive as these ideas may seem to be, we have no real intention of acting upon them. They require something we don’t have or want to give, be it time, money, or energy. To do them right (heck, to do them at all), we’d have to acquire a new set of skills, maybe even get a personality transplant. Fat chance of that happening. And so, we must let them go, once and for all. Let’s pack ’em up and drop ’em off at Goodwill.

Okay, with that done, it’s time to turn our attention from the No-ways to the Possibilities. Possibilities are ideas that are still wearable, no matter how old they may be. Some have been in our closets for years, others have only recently been added. All hold great promise and appeal. But just as we can’t wear every single piece of clothing we own simultaneously, we can’t undertake each and every one of our ideas. We must pick and choose among them, which brings us to our next step.

2. Stand before the mirror

Now that you have your stack of Possibilities in hand, it’s time to model each and every one before a mental mirror. So go ahead: Slip each over your head and answer these questions:

  • When did this particular idea first enter your life?
  • Where were you personally and professionally at the time?
  • What drew you to it, or it to you?
  • What great promise, challenge or appeal did it hold?
  • Given how you’ve changed in recent months or years, does the idea still fit?
  • Does it look and feel great?
  • Does it reflect the new, improved and true you?
  • Does it complement the other parts of your life?
  • Can you see yourself “wearing” this idea every day for weeks, months, maybe even years to come?

Once you’ve “tried on” your Possibilities and tossed out those you’ve outgrown, you likely will have just a few ideas left in your writing closet. Choose the outfit idea you like most among them. Put it on and strut your stuff. Your spring cleaning is complete!

Beth Mende Conny, WriteDirections.com

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